How can I strengthen my lungs for asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. While there is no cure for asthma, there are many ways to manage symptoms and strengthen your lungs to improve breathing and prevent asthma attacks.

Use controller medications as prescribed

Controller medications like inhaled corticosteroids work to reduce airway inflammation and sensitivity over time. Taking them daily as prescribed, even when you feel well, can help strengthen your lungs by keeping airways open. This makes breathing easier and prevents asthma symptoms from worsening.

Types of controller medications

  • Inhaled corticosteroids – Ciclesonide (Alvesco), Budesonide (Pulmicort), Fluticasone (Flovent), Mometasone (Asmanex), Beclomethasone (Qvar)
  • Combination inhalers – Fluticasone and Salmeterol (Advair), Formoterol and Mometasone (Dulera), Budesonide and Formoterol (Symbicort)
  • Leukotriene modifiers – Zafirlukast (Accolate), Montelukast (Singulair)

Work closely with your doctor to find the right long-term controller medication for your asthma severity and symptoms.

Use quick-relief inhalers correctly

Quick-relief bronchodilator inhalers like albuterol relax tightened airway muscles to quickly relieve asthma symptoms when they flare up. Using them only as needed prevents over-reliance and helps keep your lungs stronger between attacks. Always rinse your mouth after using inhalers to prevent oral thrush.

Tips for proper inhaler technique

  • Shake the inhaler before each use
  • Breathe out fully before inhaling medication
  • Press down on the inhaler canister while taking slow, deep breaths
  • Hold breath for 10 seconds to allow medicine to absorb
  • Wait 1 minute between puffs if taking more than one dose

Do airway clearing techniques

When mucus builds up in the airways, it can trigger coughing and make breathing more difficult. Doing techniques to clear mucus helps strengthen your lungs and prevent asthma flare ups. Here are some techniques to try:

Chest physiotherapy

  • Percussive chest tapping – Use cupped hand to gently tap chest and loosen mucus
  • Chest vibrations – Place hands on ribs and shake while exhaling to create vibrations
  • Breathing control – Take slow, controlled breaths using diaphragm and purse-lipped exhalation

Postural drainage

  • Lie down with head lower than chest to use gravity to drain mucus
  • Change positions – Lie on back, sides, stomach to drain different lung areas
  • Coughing – Cough productively after each position to clear loosened mucus

Practice breathing exercises

Certain breathing exercises can help strengthen your respiratory muscles, improve airflow, and make breathing feel easier. Try doing these techniques for 5-10 minutes daily.

Pursed lip breathing

  • Breathe in through nose for 2 counts
  • Pucker lips like blowing out candles and breathe out for 4 counts
  • Keep neck and shoulders relaxed
  • Repeat for duration of exercise

Belly breathing

  • Place one hand on chest, one on stomach
  • Inhale through nose, feeling stomach push out
  • Tighten stomach muscles and exhale through pursed lips
  • Keep chest still; only stomach should move
  • Repeat for 5-10 breaths

Exercise regularly

Regular cardiovascular and strength training exercise improves heart health, lung capacity and breathing efficiency. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking, swimming or biking 3-5 days per week. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

Best exercises for asthma patients

  • Swimming – Low impact, improves cardio endurance
  • Yoga – Focuses on breathing control and lung expansion
  • Biking – Steady cardio that’s low impact on joints
  • Walking – Get heart rate up without strenuous activity
  • Strength training – Build muscle and improve ventilation

Be sure to use controller medication before exercising and stop immediately if you have asthma symptoms. Start slow and gradually increase length and intensity.

Improve your asthma triggers

Reducing exposure to environmental triggers is key to keeping airways inflamed less often. Here are some common asthma triggers and ways to avoid them:

Trigger Ways to Reduce Exposure
Dust mites Use allergen covers on bedding, wash sheets weekly in hot water, reduce clutter
Pets Keep pets out of bedroom, bathe pets weekly, clean up dander with HEPA vacuum
Smoke Don’t allow smoking indoors, avoid secondhand smoke, properly ventilate if cooking with gas
Mold Fix plumbing leaks, clean mold with bleach, use dehumidifier to reduce indoor humidity
Pollution Limit outdoor activity on high pollution days, use air purifier at home
Colds & flu Get annual flu shot, wash hands frequently, disinfect surfaces to prevent spreading germs

Paying attention to asthma triggers and making changes to your environment can go a long way towards reducing asthma flare ups.

Consider pulmonary rehabilitation

For moderate to severe asthma, consider asking your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation. This supervised program combines respiratory education, breathing exercises, and physical training tailored to your needs.

Studies show pulmonary rehab benefits include:

  • Improved exercise capacity and reduced shortness of breath
  • Strengthened respiratory muscles
  • Better asthma control with fewer symptoms and attacks
  • Improved quality of life

Pulmonary rehab requires commitment but can greatly boost lung function and asthma control when done consistently.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight can exacerbate asthma symptoms and lung function. Extra weight puts more pressure on the lungs making it harder to breathe. Losing even a small amount of weight can improve asthma control and breathing ease.

Tips for losing weight with asthma

  • Increase cardio exercise as able
  • Follow a balanced, calorie controlled diet
  • Drink lots of water
  • Limit processed foods, sugar and saturated fats
  • Choose lean proteins like fish, chicken, beans
  • Fill up on low calorie fruits and vegetables

Consult a doctor or nutritionist to develop a customized weight loss plan that works with your asthma.

Use a spacer with inhalers

Using an add-on spacer device with your inhaler can help ensure you get the full dosage. Spacers also make inhalers easier to coordinate and control when taking a dose. Most spacers are inexpensive and reusable.

Benefits of spacers

  • Prevent inhaler medication spraying back into your mouth
  • Make timing with inhalation easier
  • Allow particles to spread for deeper lung penetration
  • Reduce risk of oral thrush from medication touching mouth

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about purchasing a spacer designed for your inhaler type and model.

Get an flu shot annually

Since the flu can worsen asthma symptoms and trigger attacks, getting an annual flu shot is highly recommended. Flu shots are updated each season to protect against the most likely viral strains expected to circulate.

Benefits of the flu vaccine include:

  • Prevents contracting influenza which can exacerbate asthma
  • Decreases risk of ending up hospitalized for asthma complications
  • Safe to get for anyone over 6 months old
  • Helps build immunity against different flu virus strains

Flu shots do not guarantee you won’t get sick, but provide the best protection available against influenza viruses.

Consider allergy shots (immunotherapy)

If your asthma is often triggered or worsened by allergies, allergy shots may help. Allergy shots work by gradually exposing you to tiny amounts of the allergen to build tolerance over time.

Potential benefits of allergy shots

  • Require fewer asthma medications
  • Experience less allergy symptoms
  • Prevent asthma attacks caused by allergic reactions
  • Effects can last several years after completing treatment

Allergy shots take dedication, requiring 1-2 visits per week for 3-6 months to reach a maintenance dose. Discuss with an allergist if shots make sense for your asthma.

Manage stress, anxiety and depression

There is a correlation between uncontrolled asthma and higher stress, anxiety and depression. Finding healthy ways to manage mental health is essential for overall wellbeing.

Ways to reduce stress and anxiety

  • Counseling and therapy
  • Support groups
  • Relaxation techniques like meditation, visualization, yoga
  • Massage
  • Adequate sleep
  • Balance responsibilities and take time for yourself

Talk to your doctor if anxiousness or depression make managing asthma difficult. Getting appropriate treatment can help you feel mentally stronger to care for your lungs.

Track your asthma symptoms

Keeping an asthma diary to record when and how bad your symptoms are each day can help identify triggers. Share this information with your doctor so your treatment plan can target the most likely culprits behind your flare ups.

Information to record daily

  • Any potential triggers: smoke, pets, pollution, dust, mold, pollen count
  • Severity of coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness
  • Peak flow readings if you use a meter
  • Medications taken that day
  • Activities done

Look for symptom patterns in relation to triggers and share with your doctor. Keeping detailed records helps optimize and personalized your asthma management.


While living with asthma presents daily challenges, following these evidence-based strategies can help you strengthen your lungs and achieve better symptom control. Focus on taking controller medications properly, avoiding triggers, staying active, eating healthy, managing stress and working closely with your doctor. With persistence and targeted lifestyle changes, you can live fully while managing your asthma successfully.

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